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Armed and Female

‘Armed and Female’

By Jim Castor

Tom Brokaw introduced millions of listeners to his featured guest on the ”NBC Nightly News” recently by firing off this salute: ”Twelve million women are gun owners, and they’re finding a guru named Paxton Quigley. Her message is being heard.”

An expert in personal protection and author of the book ”Armed and Female” (St. Martin’s Press), she says she is fighting back against the fear of crime with a crusade to help the millions of women who ”have a great, great concern about their safety and their vulnerability.”

Statistics show that by age 30, a U.S. woman has a 50-50 chance of being criminally attacked. Six of 10 women are afraid to walk at night in their neighborhood.

Quigley’s message: ”Most women should own handguns and know how to shoot to stop an attacker in their home.” That’s handgun. Not hand combat. Not martial arts. Not Mace. Not stun guns. Not bobby pins, hatpins, nailfiles or even passive non-resistance.

But Smith and Wesson … Beretta … Sig Sauer … Heckler and Koch.

She readily admits that anyone who is not willing to take on the responsibility of being responsible with a gun – learning how to use it and store it safely – should not own one.

But there are an estimated 70 million gun owners of some 200 million firearms in the United States. One of every two households has at least one gun. Quigley says using one for deadly force in self defense is embarking on delicate legal ground, and she doesn’t condone illegal possession.

Yet she knows hundreds of women who are willing to take the risks. As she writes in her book, published in hardcover in 1989 and re-issued last month in paperback, ”I have always recognized in me a deep, almost animal-like rage capable of causing me to do anything … even kill, to protect my children. ”If you recognize this kind of instinct in yourself … you should learn self-defense with a gun and be willing to shoot to stop an attacker.”

She says she has not had to use such force (”thank God”), but keeps a gun at home and shoots on the range at least once a month to be ready. ”The only deterrent that is universally respected by every aggressor,” she says, ”is the gun.”

As her good friend and business acquaintance, Martha Braunig, says, Quigley is ”enormously determined” to spread the word. After years as a political activist and adamant anti-gun proponent with the National Committee for Handgun Control, fear of crime changed Quigley’s mind. ”I had a total reversal several years ago,” Quigley says, ”and it really came as a surprise to me.” She was with a friend who had stopped at a gun shop in Hailey, Idaho. As an offhand remark, she asked the owner if he had a handgun that might be good for self defense.

Suddenly she paused. ”What am I saying?” she recalls. ”Was I mad? It was the first time I had confronted a fear I had. Like a light being switched on. ”I felt so strongly about it, I decided it was time in my life, and perhaps in society, for me and other women to learn to shoot a gun.”

”Once she makes up her mind to do something, she knows no fear. Right from the git-go she began planning to write the book, and how to promote it. She’s enormously attractive, very bright and energetic, says Braunig. …

After Robert Kennedy’s assassination in 1968, Quigley was convinced handgun control was the answer to crime. ”I was always politically active, but brought up as a non-violent person.” She worked diligently for anti-gun legislation. ”But crime kept increasing,” she says. ”Cities with the most stringent anti-gun laws also had the highest violent crime rates. It wasn’t the answer.” …

”I was seduced by the weather to move to California,” she said. Calling herself unmarried instead of divorced, 39, and with two teen-age sons (”they have no interest in guns”), she says she’s having ”the most wonderful time of my life teaching women how to protect themselves.”

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